Written on: August 21st, 2006 in 10002(l) (2) Exemptions - Trade Secrets
Complainant alleged that the State Public Integrity Commission violated FOIA by denying him access to lobbying expense reports and financial disclosure reports of public officials in electronic form. HELD: Under FOIA, a public body cannot respond to a request for information in electronic form by supplying paper records containing the same information. FOIA’s public records definition is broad, and an agency cannot withhold public records from disclosure simply b/c the records were created voluntarily, nor can it argue that disclosure is not required because no statute requires the creation/maintenance of the record. An existing electronic database is a public record separate and distinct from the underlying records used to compile the database. Additionally, records in the custody of private vendors but accessible by the public body are subject to disclosure under FOIA. However, FOIA does not require the creation of a record in a specialized format specified by the requesting party. FOIA does not require the public body to convert hard copies onto a CD either. FOIA only requires the public body to make the hard copy reports available to a requesting party for photocopying or scanning.
Written on: August 7th, 2006 in 10002(g) Meeting
Complainant alleged that four members of the Smyrna Town Council violated FOIA by meeting privately to discuss a matter of public business. The four members denied meeting to discuss public business, but submitted affidavits swearing that they each contacted the Town manager separately to raise similar concerns. HELD: A constructive quorum may occur when the members of a public body, sufficient in number to constitute a quorum, engage in an interactive exchange of thoughts and opinions and the members are asked to vote or adopt a particular point of view or reach a consensus on what action to take. In this case, there were several one-on-one discussions between three members of the Council, but those serial discussions did not involve a quorum of the seven member Council so as to trigger the potential application of the open meeting laws.